Where Does Money Go When It Dies?

Originally published on May 23, 2012 9:36 am

We've all desperately tried to force a crumpled dollar bill into a vending machine to no avail. Fortunately, when your dollar is that decrepit, it's on death's door and will likely be removed from circulation.

The average lifespan of a $1 bill, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, is 21 months. Eventually, money is destroyed — either by the Federal Reserve itself, or by the places that create it to begin with: the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and the U.S. Mint. On average, 5 million unfit currency notes are destroyed each day.

In the midst of America's debt ceiling dilemmas and budget binds, photographer Will Steacy wanted to get a closer look at the source: money. A few weeks ago, he got ahold of some bills that have been removed from circulation but not yet destroyed, and photographed them with a large-format film camera before returning them.

"The dollar, once a global staple, can be seen as a symbol of a slumping superpower as it struggles to compete against foreign currency like the euro and yuan," Steacy writes, "and the repercussions of the American-made financial crisis redefine the value of the dollar in a global economy."

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